Understanding the Evolution of Nordicity: Updating L.E. Hamelin's Indices 01 December 2021

Understanding the Evolution of Nordicity: Updating L.E. Hamelin's Indices

This project is a tribute to the pioneering work of Louis-Edmond Hamelin. 

Despite its importance and notable use by both scientists and the general public (Graham 1990, Brunelle 1989, Committo 2016), the Louis-Edmond Hamelin index has not been updated since its creation (Simard 2017). However, climate change, resource development and trade globalization are significantly affecting northern regions and these phenomena are therefore likely to modify both the physical and human boundaries of the northern world (Committo 2016).  

Updating this index in order to better measure the impact of these phenomena on Quebec and international Nordicity is therefore necessary. This work also allows us to take into account the criticisms that have been directed at it over time. For example, the VAPO has been criticized for defining the North through the South by conferring a northern character on sparsely populated areas with low economic development. Northern communities would thus be expected to lose their northern character the greater their economic development (Simard 2017). Some physical indices are also co-dependent, such as annual cold, permafrost type and vegetation cover. This co-dependency contributes to increase the nordicity index of a community located in a cold climate, and vice versa. (Vaguet, Couillet & Colange 2017)  

Other measures and indicators have been developed to account for certain factors of social or physical well-being. For example, the remoteness and accessibility measure developed by Statistics Canada (Alasia et al. 2017) takes into account geographic distance, travel time to other geographic centers as well as, the population level and services available in the community and nearby agglomerations. However, the main limitation of this index is that it only considers distance from other centers geographically and does not take into account climatic or social elements related to distance. At the same time, the Community Well-Being Index (CWB) developed in 2004 is used by the Ministry of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs to measure certain indicators related to the socio-economic health of communities, but leaves out health, environmental and cultural indicators related to well-being (Bouchard 2018). These indices therefore remain incomplete, measuring only certain aspects of community remoteness or well-being and not taking into account northernness as a whole.  

More generally, despite the availability of these indices and the amount of data collected on Aboriginal communities in Canada and around the world, the data is often not accessible to communities, is not available for small communities, or is not comparable between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities (Trevethan 2019).  

The criticisms of Louis-Edmond Hamelin's model and the limitations of the other indices show the relevance of improving the index in order to better measure northernness at both the human and physical levels and to meet the needs of northern populations. Thus, the VAPO index is the only indicator that provides longitudinal and multiscalar data on Nordicity. More importantly, only the VAPO provides a measure of Nordicity at the circumpolar scale and in a wide range of contexts, which is not the case for the CBI and the remoteness index (Vaguet 2019; Vaguet, Couillet & Colange 2017). Thus, while the index should be adapted to address these criticisms, its improvement thus allows for comparison between northern communities and regions around the globe.  

This project also allows public and para-public organizations as well as private promoters to acquire relevant tools to measure the potential impact of projects on communities and to adapt various social and territorial planning programs to the realities of communities. Through its environmental, social and economic components, the index can be relevant to a variety of stakeholders and can be adapted to their projects and measurement needs. Finally, the index is also one of the few tools that allows for both national and international comparisons, which allows different actors to develop locally and internationally relevant projects and to better measure regional differences. 

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